I have not updated this travel series for a long time, but Janine from My Pennies, My Thoughts contacted me to get tips about traveling around Europe for 6 weeks, and I wanted to share them with you too!
I wrote a guest post a few months back on Eyes on the Dollar about how to have a cheap European holiday, for more general information about flights and hotels, you can head there.
Today, I want to talk about the UK. It is a great destination for so many reasons. First, they speak English which should make things easier for the traveling debutant. Then, there are lots of cool places to visit, London of course, but also Wales, the South Coast, Scotland, Oxford, Bath, Stonehenge, Shakespeare’s birthplace… History, nature and culture, all in one. And even though the UK does not shine internationally for its fine cuisine, you can feast on oysters on the coast, have a hearty Sunday roast in a 100 year old pub, or try about any international food in London.
Best time to visit the UK
If I was a real French, I would say the summer in the UK lasts for less than a week, but that is just a myth. From April to late September, you can enjoy a mild weather and not too much rain. The rest of the year is great to visit the cities, there is always something fun going on (ice skating rink, Christmas lights, opera season…) but the countryside should be cold and wet.
Planning a cheap holiday in the UK
Cheap accommodation in the UK
Finding decent priced accommodation can be hard, and lodging will be the most important part of your budget. You can try Airbnb and rent a whole house or flat (yes, it’s a flat over there, get used to it!), or look for special offer on chain hotels. Travelodge has two or three sales per year, with rooms starting at £9, or $15. This is a great deal, for a clean room with private bath. You can subscribe to their newsletter a few months before your trip to make sure you don’t miss the offer.
Money Saving Expert is another place to look for deals, they list most hotel deals, even the one that starts at £1 per night in central London and I never manage to get :).
Be careful though, those deals are non refundable and you have to know your dates in advance.
Most other chains offer 60 days early bird deals, and like Travelodge, you can sleep four people in a family room, adding to the savings.
I would recommend Airbnb for extended stays though, so you can cook your meals.
Cheap transportation in the UK
If you are just going to London, you want to avoid renting a car. There is a congestion charge, like a toll, that you have to pay daily to enter the city. Parking is scare and getting used to double decker buses driving on the left side of the road takes some time. Public transport is efficient and gets your everywhere. Buy an Oyster card, top it up with a few pounds and enjoy bus rides for £1.10 and tube for $2.20. The Oyster card will never charge you more than the price of a daily pass, so after 3 or 4 trips, you stop being charged and can ride for free for the rest of the day.
If you are going out of the city, you can buy a day ticket, with a round trip and unlimited transport within London, at a reduced price. Check National Rail for more information, tickets are cheaper when bought in advance.
Megabus and National Express are the main bus companies, Megabus is a low cost option with rates starting at £1, and the now offer bus fares to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam starting at £10.
The Eurostar gets to Paris in only two hours, and the tickets are for sale 90 days in advance, which is when you should buy them to get the best fare.
If you want to rent a car, Enterprise has a good deal under £40 for a small car from Friday morning until Monday morning.
Cheap and free attractions in the UK
One site to check is 2 for 1 London that offers… yes, you guessed right, half price tickets to major London attractions if you get there by train. You need to print the voucher online. It includes the popular London Eye, Tower of London, or the amazing Kew Gardens.
Most museums in London are free, like the National Gallery, the British Museum or the Science Museum. If you have kids, they will love the British war museum, which is free as well.
A little research online goes a long way, as many other great places are free, from the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh to the Royal Air Force museum in Shropshire. Other offer a free day per week, so you can schedule other visits around it.
If you visit London, you can work your way around the normal bus lines instead of buying the hop on- hop off tours, with an Oyster card (see transportation) you can see the city for a quarter of the price.
Cheap eats in the UK
Pub food is usually inexpensive if you go for the lunch specials, or you can check Money Saving Experts for a list of chain restaurants who have special offers. Whetherspoon pub chain have good deals on traditional English breakfasts for example.
Eating on the markets is also a good option, Borough Market in London is incredible to visit, and they have several food stalls serving seafood, hot sandwiches or ready meals.
Outside the capital, try the fish and chips shops, or the multitude of Indian and Chinese buffets for a cheap filling meal.
What other travel tips can you recommend to Janine for a week in London?